‘Providing a warm, safe place for those who need one’

Florence Emergency Cold Weather Shelter opened at its current site earlier this year, providing individual units for people needing access to the shelter’s services. Warm units and meals are included on days the shelter is open.

Emergency Cold Weather Shelter provides care this week

Dec. 15, 2021 — Due to this week’s inclement weather, the Florence Emergency Cold Weather Shelter (FECWS) opened for the first time this season on Tuesday and Wednesday. The shelter opens when temperatures drop below 40 degrees and winter weather makes living outside extremely difficult.

A number of upgrades have been added to the FECWS’ current location 3996 Highway 101, across from Sand Ranch, since the facility initially opened early this year. The site, which uses Pallet shelters provided by Lane County, allows individual people to have a warm, dry and safe place to spend the night while maintaining social distancing and sanitation required under COVID-19.

The FECWS has been successful in acquiring the necessary donations and funding to bring electricity to the 20-unit facility. Last season required gas-powered generators to intermittently supply power to the one- and two-person sleeping quarters.

Pat Burke is the president of the program, which operates with extensive volunteer support, primarily from members of the Presbyterian Church of the Siuslaw.

“We will be opening this week with all of our units having heat and lights. I am thrilled that we were able to complete the work, with the help of Florence Public Works Director Mike Miller and City Manager Erin Reynolds, and we are so appreciative the Florence City Council approved our request for up to $20,000 of financial support to pay for the electricity at the shelter this year,” Burke said.

The shelter will provide transportation from Safeway, Siuslaw Public Library, and Fred Meyer to the site, with pick up by the posted flags between 5 and 6 p.m. There will be a sign at the entrance for people who are able to navigate on their own.  

The Florence City Council took action to support the FECWS on Nov. 15 after also approving the continued use of city land to accommodate the shelter.

Burke said she was also pleased that Central Lincoln PUD and Siuslaw Valley Electric were able to coordinate stringing of electrical power lines from Highway 101 to the facility and then to each of the small units used by clients.

“The shelters now have electricity, … and with the cold and wet weather we are experiencing, it is time to be open,” Burke said.

One of the main challenges to opening when temperatures drop is the need for volunteers to staff the facility while open. As such, volunteers met for a work party Tuesday to prepare the Pallet shelters for guests. 

In the four years leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, FECWS provided an indoor shelter primarily using the facilities of the Presbyterian church. Then, towards the end of the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, Lane County provided the Pallet-brand shelters, valued at over $100,000, plus another $31,000 in a cash grant, to fund operations and invest in transformers at FECWS’ site.

“We are always looking for more people to help either with the preparation of the meals we offer at 6 p.m. and at 7 a.m. when we are open, or to spend the night at the FECWS, so we always have someone there if there is a problem,” Burke said. “It really depends on staffing. We want to encourage anyone that would like to help with the on-site part of this to contact us and we can provide all of the necessary information to help us provide a warm, safe place for those who need one.”

Information on the FECWS can be found at www.facebook.com/FECWS/ or by contacting Burke at 541-590-3598, 541-590-0652 or [email protected].